In 2016, AMA conducted a study on the percentage of telehealth visits practitioners were receiving. The study reported that 14 percent of visits were done remotely. The same survey was done in 2019 and found the number of remote visits had increased to 28 percent.
From about mid-2020, remote visits increase to between 60 and 90 percent. The 2016 and 2019 study proves that telehealth had begun to pick up pace even though it was slow. The sudden rise in 2020 was a result of the pandemic. Questions remain concerning remote consultation in a post-pandemic era.
The role of regulators
Fear of infection in the pandemic era caused a wave of short-term changes in healthcare laws, policies, and insurance restrictions. With fewer physician visits and more remote visits, the major concern for medical professionals was reimbursement and medical billing issues.
CMMS relaxed its policies of medical care to allow for telehealth reimbursement. HIPAA policies were also relaxed temporarily to allow doctors to consult remotely and process claims. the future of telehealth will primarily be determined by whether the temporarily relaxed rules will be made permanent or will revert to their original state after the pandemic.
Results from pre-pandemic studies
The 2016 and 2019 AMA study revealed a steady increase in telehealth meaning more patients we choosing to consult remotely. The surge in remote consultation between 2020 and 2021 was expected and it helped more people become aware of telehealth and its importance. The curve may turn bearish a few months after the pandemic as citizens readjust, but it will likely bounce back to the high percentages shortly after.
The pace of telehealth technology
Even with surging numbers of patients seeking telehealth care, there remain technology gaps that must be sealed to make telehealth service delivery seamless. Medical billing companies in California are already working to improve billing and reimbursement issues but the nurses and support staff are yet to fully understand their role in telehealth.
Technology is yet to address diagnosis issues, testing, and emergency care. A patient consulting remotely will still require to visit their doctor for lab tests. In a post-pandemic era, technology innovations will be crucial to fast-paced telehealth.
Preparedness of health professionals
It is natural for human beings to resist change until a time when the change makes a bigger impact that cannot be resisted. Healthcare professionals were already accustomed to sitting with their patients in a consultation room or attending to them on their beds in wards.
Now that there is a paradigm shift, the pace at which health professionals will embrace the shift and install all devices and technology for a telehealth era will determine the direction it will take in the post-pandemic era.
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